- OpenAI’s Altman warns the EU not to overregulate
- EU lawmakers disputed Altman’s claim that they could dilute the EU AI Act
- The EU Act could be the world’s first set of rules to govern AI
- Italian regulators have accused OpenAI of violating European privacy rules
LONDON/STOCKHOLM, May 25 (Reuters) – For months, Sam Altman, CEO of Microsoft-backed ( MSFT.O ) OpenAI, has urged lawmakers around the world to create new rules governing the technology. On Wednesday, he threatened that the maker of ChatGPT could leave the EU if the bloc is “overregulated”.
Altman has spent the past week crisscrossing Europe, meeting with top politicians in France, Spain, Poland, Germany and the UK to discuss the future of AI, and the development of ChatGPT.
More than six months after OpenAI unveiled its AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT to the world, fears of its potential have sparked excitement and alarm – and brought it into conflict with regulators.
One place Altman hasn’t been this week is Brussels, where EU regulators are working on the long-awaited EU AI Act, which could be the world’s first set of rules to govern AI.
Altman canceled a scheduled visit to Brussels, two sources familiar with the matter said. OpenAI did not respond to a request for comment.
“The current draft of the EU AI Act is going to be over-regulating, but we’ve heard that it’s going to be pushed back,” Altman said in London on Wednesday.
EU lawmakers responsible for shaping the AI Act dispute Altman’s claims. “I don’t see any dilution happening anytime soon,” Dragos Tudorache, a Romanian member of the European Parliament who is leading the drafting of the EU proposals, told Reuters.
“However, we are happy to invite Mr. Altman to Parliament so that he can express his concerns and hear the thoughts of European legislators on these issues,” he said.
EU industry chief Thierry Breton also criticized the threat, saying the draft rules were not up for negotiation.
On Thursday, OpenAI is expected to discuss in more detail how AI should be regulated, amid Altman’s busy schedule of meetings with world leaders such as UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron.
LAWS ARE NOT ‘BACKMAILED’
Dutch MEP Kim van Sparrentak, who also worked on the draft of the EU law, said he and his colleagues “must not allow ourselves to be blackmailed by American companies.”
“If OpenAI cannot comply with basic data management, transparency, safety and security requirements, then their systems are not fit for the European market,” he said.
By February, ChatGPT set the record for the fastest growing user base of any consumer application app in history.
OpenAI first clashed with regulators in March, when Italian data regulator Garante shut down the app domestically, accusing OpenAI of violating European privacy rules. ChatGPT is back online after the company implemented new privacy measures for users.
Meanwhile, EU lawmakers added new proposals to the bloc’s AI Act, forcing any company that uses generative tools, such as ChatGPT, to disclose any copyrighted material used to train the systems this.
EU parliamentarians agreed on the draft law earlier this month. Member states, the European Commission and Parliament will hammer out the final details of the bill.
Through the Council of Europe, individual member states such as France or Poland can also seek changes before the bill can be passed later this year.
PLANS IN ‘FULL SWING’
While the law has been in the works for several years, the new provisions specifically targeting generative tools were drawn up just weeks before a crunch vote on the proposals.
Reuters previously reported that some lawmakers initially proposed banning copyrighted material used to train generative AI models, but this was abandoned in favor of stronger transparency requirements.
“These provisions are mainly related to transparency, which ensures that AI and the company’s development can be trusted. I see no reason why any company shies away from transparency,” said Tudorache.
Nils Rauer, a technology partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, said it was “not surprising” that Altman made his comments as lawmakers worked on their proposals.
“OpenAI will probably not abandon Europe. The EU is too important economically,” he said. “You cannot carve out the single market, which has close to 500 million people and a 15-trillion-euro ($16.51 trillion) economy.”
Altman was in Munich, Germany, on Thursday where he said he met with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Sergey Lagodinsky, a German MEP who also worked on the law, said that while Altman may be trying to push his agenda on individual countries, Brussels’ plans to regulate the technology are “in full swing.”
“There may be some changes, of course,” he said. “But I doubt they will change the overall trajectory.”
($1 = 0.9084 euros)
Reporting by Martin Coulter and Supantha Mukherjee; additional reporting by Alexander Huebner in Munich and Andreas Rinke in Berlin; Editing by Susan Fenton
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.